Why We All Should Be Activists In 2015

Literary gem, J.P Clark, in his celebrated poem; The Casualties, wrote:“The casualties are not only those who are dead. They are well out of it, though they await burial by installment. The casualties are not only those who are escaping. The shattered shall become prisoners in a fortress of falling walls…The casualties are many, and a good member as well outside the scenes of ravage and wreck; they are the emissaries of rift.”

In the African context, the casualties aren't only those who now sleep dreamlessly due to our grandly epic dysfunctional systems. They may be well out of it. They aren't those who have been sentenced to an unending season of unimaginable grief and a seemingly eternal drought of joy. They aren't exclusively the victims of the Abubakar Shekaus, Joseph Konys, and other less renown gentlemen whose favorite sport serves bartering peace for war. They aren't only those who have lost friends, families, relatives, friend of friends and who we may someday lose too. They aren't solely those who carry the scars of knives at the carnival of blood or mothers searching for coffins to bury their children; children of a seemingly cursed continent. They aren't those who are earnestly seeking for a healing balm to soothe their preventable aches and demographic-inflicted emotional sapping(s), no. They aren't the grief-stricken parents of our Chibok girls, neither are they the parents of boys whose throats were slit while having their well deserved nocturnal rest. Just like the rest of us, the only crime they were indicted of was that they chose to be knowledgeable. While we chose xyz locations, they enrolled at Federal Government College, Buni Yadi. For this sole cause, they were abruptly banished from the margins of consciousness, their spirits respectively and collectively amputated. No, they can't be the thousands of children being orphaned by Ebola in sub-Saharan Africa. Neither are they solely children soldiers being exposed to the odium of polluted wind, unhealthy harvest of corpses, and young girls being used as sex slaves across the acreage of Africa. We are the emissaries of rift. Africans; this writer and his brothers and sisters who are sometimes adjudged black monkeys or Negros due to the melanin in our skins, are the casualties.

Hence, we, the casualties, the good members living outside the scenes of ravage and wreck, must deem peeking into our future and bluntly relaying how it looks; ugly or beautiful, as part of a necessary revolt. Our environs may be devoid of dawn to dusk curfews for the now, but we all would agree – overtly or covertly – that our security is the biggest lie being sold to us at the moment.

This beggars the posers: For how long will we keep indulging in the luxury of basking in half truths? Even if our government finds an avocation in failing us, for how long will we keep failing ourselves? For how long will we stand dumb, when we ought to raise our voices, regardless of how lacking in baritone it might be? For how long will the debilitating pain, the writer's cramp or block tether our hands from writing, whether or not we are confused by commas, puzzled by parenthesis and perturbed by punctuation? What better do our words serve, if not our weaponry, and our thoughts our ammunitions? Is our silence not deafening and our complacency discomforting? The Freedom of Information bill, was it passed to put our future in smithereens or make it tinselly?

For too long a time we have been subjected to serial deceptions by our political class. We are repeatedly told that we are the leaders of tomorrow. Yet, our opinions can only be valid when we are well above 30 years. Back to that later. UNESCO stipulates that a minimum quota of 25% should be accrued to education in budgets, but which state in Nigeria has thus far lived up to the mark? No, not one. Article 6 of the United Nations Convention for Child's Right guarantees the rights of a child to survive and live. But burrowing into the streets of major commercial cities in Africa, the confines of our reality confirms otherwise. Amid the hustle and bustle of these high octane cities, it is commonplace to find belabored young men and women whose dreams and future are being interrupted daily, loiter, hawk and lurch backwards, forwards and sideways in jams, like unanchored rowboats in a storm, trading – the surest means of survival they can cling to, in a continent where social security for both young and old is queer.

Small wonder it has been widely speculated that asides our ethnological inclination, as of now, if “being African” served a word in the thesaurus, it would appropriately spell out hopelessness, bleakness, a few uncomplimentary anecdotes beneath the earth, and a trickle unholy adjectives above the heavens. Understandably to the West, democracy is comparatively nascent in many African countries. But do one need to be reminded that no excuse is good enough for failure? Is learning from the experience of others not more palatable than committing needless mistakes and unnecessarily elongating our journey to Singapore?

Please be aware that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Jacob Zuma, Tedoro Oblang Nguema Mbasogo, Peter Mutharika, Alpha Conde, Jose Eduardo Santos, Abde Bourtefilka, Alasanne Ouattara and Yoweri Museveni, just to mention a few, are serving presidents of Liberia, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Malawi, Guinea, Angola, Algeria, Ivory Coast, and Uganda, and they are all septuagenarians in their own rights. Whilst President Paul Biya of Cameroun is an octogenarian. These men and women are competing in age with grannies, yet, in the renditions of primary and secondary school students across the land, probably one of the most hypocritical statements of all time; “you are the leaders of tomorrow” and other similar aphorisms are routine.

If we suppose we are safe in assuming that these are mere smoke screens. If we claim now is temporal; it is only a moment, yes. What should we make of our teeming army of un-indolent, but unemployed and underemployed youths? What do we make of the tons of jobless first and second class graduates in our third world economies? According to UNICEF, 2014 is the worst year for the African child. What do we make of that?

And if you think activism is being a rebel or radical who sees no good in any government, you've got to think again. If you think it is solely a political demonstration; converging at Unity Fountain or Gani Fawehinmi Park, with a placard stating your grievances raised above your head, then, you are only partially right. Activism is all about being a better citizen. It is all about concurring with the simple fact that if we do nothing, nothing will happen. It is all about using action to achieve results. Be it by holding elected or selected office holders accountable for every dime accrued to their ministries or parastatals via means within the bounds of the law, partaking in protest marches, sit–ins, sit–outs, peaceful demonstrations and strike actions, writing petitions, joining or volunteering for civil societies and resorting to litigation, if need be.

You should be an activist because anything that isn't working around you is a consequence of your silence. The next time you see rivulets rage along a road or lake formed because of rainfall where there was hitherto a shallow depression, bear in mind it is as a result of your failing to wince or cry out loud enough. The next time you hear cacophonies and hums of generator sets or see the toxic fumes it burps blare into the heavens and pollute your environment, ask yourself: How long will it take me to admit that change will keep eluding us if we don't get tired of our current situation and aren't ready to pay the price for it? Regardless of how bizarre it sounds, our corruption, insecurity and myriad of miasmas are compounded residues of our collective silences.

Its high time we considered our options: Remain silent, play gloating onlookers, maintain the status quo and remain at the bottom of the barrel in areas that matters most or be change agents who will topple unpatriotic elements (in governance), unsettle leaders who don't have us in their dreams and never back down until Nigeria takes its rightful position in the sun. Change wouldn't be brought to bear by sentiments or complaints. Our actions are key and our voices are golden. Silence is not a song we should know all the words to. We are kindred souls. We share a common grief!

Joel Pereyi, a freelance copywriter, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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Articles by Joel Pereyi